The Benefits of Music for Both Caregivers and the Person with Alzheimer’s
By Emmy Vadnais, OTR/L
Originally published on MindStart on August 3, 2015
Caregiving for the person with dementia can be very stressful. It is essential for caregivers to find ways to take care of their own health. By staying well and preventing potential health problems due to prolonged stress, caregivers can stay in the shape they need to be to continue their day to day duties.
Music has profound effects on us and can be very healing. It can help a person to feel more calm, relaxed, joyful, and energized, whether it is the caregiver or person with dementia. It can connect the person with many feelings and emotions, depending on the type of music. It can be listened to, or the person can make, create, or play music or sounds with instruments or objects. People can dance and move to it, sing it, or experience the vibration of it.
Music that is meaningful to the person gives them the most benefit – whether it is jazz, rock, hip hop, classical, country, nature sounds, or any kind. Music or sound goes back all the way to the womb when we could her our mother’s and our own heartbeat.
• Be relaxing, calming, or energizing
• Can affect moods, feeling, emotions
• Help to express emotions and feelings such as sadness, anger, grief
• Help us to experience joy, happiness, love, awe, wonder, or a feeling of connection
• Assist with lowering stress, anxiety, depression, and pain
• Enhance levels of consciousness, memory, cognitive functioning, attention, being present
• Assist with movement and coordination and improve everyday functioning
• Enhance spirituality and connection to something greater. It is often used in rituals, ceremonies, and rights of passage.
An inspiring film “Alive in Inside: A Story of Music and Memory” followed a social worker who brought music to people experiencing Alzheimer’s. He found that they came alive when listening to music that was of interest to them. Music touches the areas of motion and emotion that are generally not as affected by Alzheimer’s.
Also in the film, neurologist, Oliver Sacks, whose work inspired the film “Awakenings”, says that music has the ability to stimulate more parts of our brain than any other stimulus. He says that music is inseparable from emotion. It can call forth many parts of a person and can reach people with dementia, even those in the latest stages.
Last, a neurologist n the film, who has spent his entire career with Alzheimer’s, said he hasn’t been able to help people the way music can. There is now an effort to get music iPods and headphones to every resident in every nursing home through a program called Music and Memory. Learn more about this film and program.
There are more holistic approaches that may be able to help manage caregiver stress. Aromatherapy and relaxation methods were discussed in part 1 and 2 of this series (see below for link). Other approaches are massage therapy, reflexology, acupressure, acupuncture, CranioSacral Threapy, chiropractic, practicing yoga, t’ai chi, QiGong, eating well, connecting with your spirituality, connecting with loved ones, family, friends, or snuggling your favorite pet, engaging in laughter, such as watching a comedy, sitting or taking a walk in nature, or sipping on a cup of herbal tea.
There are even more suggestions than these. To learn more holistic tips for coping and staying well please visit HolisticOT.org.
This information is a resource for educational and informational purposes. It provides general health information related to Holistic Health Care. It is not a substitute for professional health care advice or for specific conditions. If you have, or suspect you may have a health condition you should consult a health care provider or consider consulting with a Holistic OT.